EC&I 833 – Knowledge, Theories, and… Learning Machines!

When you think of a learning machine, it seems pretty reasonable to imagine some form of a futuristic digital device that offers the most enhanced and deepened pathway to learning. However, when Skinner (1954) created the Learning Machine to aid and revolutionize education, the same thought idea occurred, but it looked very different visually. And I do think that Skinner’s device was what they thought was a very advanced form of technology for learning. Still, perhaps it also reveals a deeper reflection of contextual learning theory, epistemology, and philosophical approach to education. Now, before we unpack all those large syllabus words, let us take a moment to visualize what a Learning Machine looks like and how it functions.

Skinner Teaching Machine. Source.

Epistemology is a big word for looking at the theory of knowledge. What is knowledge, how do we conceive it, its history, and context within a group/individual. If none of that made any sense, you are not alone, but watching this video aided my understanding of this concept. We must discuss epistemology when it comes to education, and technology as it governs the highway that we utilize to reach learning and outcomes.

As educators form and develop their own theory of knowledge based on the accepted view culturally, then we enter into differing theories of how learning can take place, and what that might be for the student and teacher. The three main theories we examined in class focused on behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. I do think it is very important to understand each of these theories, but this post is not focused on explaining these terms, so I will provide an infographic below and links if you would like to read more.

The prompt for this week was to analyze our own learning theories and how they have been shaped and molded throughout our career thus far. I think when we first examined these definitions in class, I certainly felt that I aligned with constructivism with my theories about learning and what I value in the classroom. Upon reflection, constructivism is quite difficult without a deepened pedagogy and knowledge of the curriculum. When Zygotkzy discussed the Zones of Proximal Development that align very well with constructivism, it is not simple task for a new teacher that has not mastered their curriculum and instruction to be valid and reliable in this process of gaging where students range based on their zones.

Therefore, I think most new teachers start with some aspect of behaviorism to begin as a method to manage the classroom and control behaviour as a routine. This method creates a consistent method for new teachers to follow, and the results are pretty consistent. However, it does have shortfalls within what the desired results are, and the inquiry as to why these results are desired and often times do not perfectly align with learning outcomes. Then, we enter into cognitivism as a method to think and process through information by systematic means to store details from short-term memory into long-term memory. This theory feels like it comes next for a new teacher as this seems to offer a better way for students to think and process information which from an epistemological standpoint, and that does seem ideal. However, it does feel like cogntivism offers methods to think and store information, but there is little aspect of reflection, questioning, or deeper levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Constructivism then enters the conversation as a means to deepen this learning through peer orientation, guidelines, and a more student-centered approach to routines in the classroom.

Although, as I think of this process and my own theories of learning, it does not feel linear anyway. If anything, it feels more like a cycle that reflects the needs and context of the classroom and is a continuum that is everchanging and flowing through differing theories.

Lastly, I would also suggest that even in my own field of mathematics, I really value the theory of Connectivism as a critical aspect of learning too. And I think I would suggest that this theory values the heart and methods of connections for students which I would tend to say makes profound impact on the learning that occurs for each student.

Please let me know what theory of learning you align with the most, or if there is another one that has not been discussed that you value in your classroom. And if your brain is hurting a little bit after digesting all those concepts and ideas, feel free to post your favourite GIF below and I’ll already know.

Thanks for reading!

EC&I 833 – Introduction and History of Ed Tech

Hello and welcome to my first blog post of ECI 833 where myself and classmates will be exploring the history of educational technology. As a fair starting point in this course, we have begun to unpack the historical significant and definition of the technology. Often we associate the word technology with computers and some variation of digital connection, but the root of this word is far more simple, yet complex. Mid century definition of this term states, “the means or activity by which man seeks to change or manipulate his environment.” This definition provides a more broad understanding of what technology could mean, but also allows for a healthy dose of ambiguity to enter this term.

Through this lens, oral language is considered a form of technology. Therefore, it is important to examine the historical definition of the terms used in this course as a reference to expand our understand of this concept while valuing and connecting its cultural relevance and context. From this perspective moving forward, it is instrumental to view and understand technology as a method for change and expansion to our environment. This potentially new way of seeing this word will aid as we begin to uncover and unpack more about the history of educational technology specifically.

I really enjoyed the quote that aids in unpacking this definition of technology as an ecological change. That is, technology and technological change are not simply an additive process to an ever changing world, but these changes impact everything as Postman States, “A new medium does not add something; it changes everything” (Postman, 1998). Viewing technology as technology change as a living organism that evolves and is redefined each time something new is added to the process. However, it is fundamental to examine that as technology has evolved in various methods such as oral tradition, to writing, to computers, to cell phones, there is a deep privilege and bias that comes with these new advancements. Technology changes often reveal the deeper philosophical values that society or culture may share that are implicitly perceived by many. Postman (1998) describes this as, “… there
is embedded in every great technology an epistemological, political or social prejudice. Sometimes that bias is greatly to our advantage. Sometimes it is not. The printing press annihilated the oral tradition; telegraphy annihilated space; television has humiliated the word; the computer, perhaps, will degrade community life. And so on”. Therefore, as we look deeper into technology and its connection to education, it is imperative to examine the history, contextual framework, and philosophical theories that drive the advancement of technology instead of a state of oblivion and complacency that the world will become a “better place” without your own thoughts and actions.

I will close with one final quote from Neil Postman in reference to technology changes and I would love if you could respond or provide your own thoughts/interpretations on the quote.

“… there are always winners and
losers, and that the winners always try to persuade the losers that they are really winners”

Thanks for reading!